Review + Giveaway: Shards & Ashes

I received this book for free from YA Books Central in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review + Giveaway: Shards & AshesShards & Ashes by Kelley Armstrong, Melissa Marr
Published by HarperCollins on February 19, 2013
Genres: Anthologies, Dystopian, Post-Apocalyptic, Romance, Short Stories
Pages: 384
Format: ARC
Source: YA Books Central

Gripping original stories of dystopian worlds from nine New York Times bestselling authors, edited by Melissa Marr and Kelley Armstrong.

The world is gone, destroyed by human, ecological, or supernatural causes. Survivors dodge chemical warfare and cruel gods; they travel the reaches of space and inhabit underground caverns. Their enemies are disease, corrupt corporations, and one another; their resources are few, and their courage is tested.

Powerful original dystopian tales from nine bestselling authors offer bleak insight, prophetic visions, and precious glimmers of light among the shards and ashes of a ruined world.

Basically every time I review an anthology, I do things differently. This time, since there aren’t that many stories and they’re a bit longer, I’m going to break it down with my thoughts about each story.

Story 1: “Hearken” by Veronica Roth
In all honesty, I was expecting to hate this story. I really was not impressed with Divergent and had no higher hopes for this short story. Well, it just goes to show that giving authors a second chance can be a good thing. I really did like this. The concept is fascinating, if not entirely sense-making. In this world, terrorism is rampant, and people are dying from bombings left and right. They’ve developed, for reasons that seem rather sketchy, the ability, with an implant, for certain highly musically-inclined individuals to hear a person’s life music and death music. The story follows a half-Indian, half-white girl, Darya, through her decision about whether to choose to hear the life song or death song.I did laugh hysterically when Darya’s life song turns out to have all of the instruments, rather than just some like most people; she’s divergent, y’all! The world building opens up a lot of questions which it can’t answer (How does this ability actually help anything? Does the death music actually predict when the death will occur?), but the idea itself is appealing enough that I was willing to mostly let that slide and really appreciate the story. While it does loosely fit in the post-apocalyptic category, it’s REALLY loose. Darya has some depth to her, and the writing is better than it was in Divergent, if still not of particular note. 3.5/5

Story 2: “Branded” by Kelley Armstrong
Kelley Armstrong stays in familiar territory with her contribution to the anthology, in a tale about werewolves in hybrids. In her post-apocalyptic vision of the future, mankind’s attempts to create super-soldiers have ultimately lessened odds of survival. The remaining humans hide behind well-guarded walls, swiftly persecuting anyone found to possess supernatural blood. Rayne’s secret boyfriend has just been accused. The story is fun, and will appeal to Armstrong fans. 3/5

Story 3: “Necklace of Raindrops” by Margaret Stohl
Well, this story probably marks my final experience with Margaret Stohl. I hated Beautiful Creatures and, if anything, this is worse. In Stohl’s contribution, in a dystopian future, people’s lives are tied to their necklaces. If you run out of beads, you die. The other option is to drop, aka go sky diving to your death. At the beginning of the story, Jai’s brother, Rama, drops. Jai is not actually bothered by this, instead embarking on a nauseatingly corny romance with Z. Even better than that nonsensical plot and the motivationless characters, Stohl writes almost solely in sentence fragments, and all three points of view read the same. 1/5

Story 4: “Dogsbody” by Rachel Caine
Caine’s story follows along a classic dystopian line, with a despotic, ruthless government. Xavier, known as Zay, is recruited to work as a dogsbody, essentially a slave. This story will thrill action fans, as about half of it is an extended shoot-em-up scene. I found the characterization lacking and couldn’t stop yawning, despite the action. Also, choosing to name one of the rebels Virtue is rather heavy-handed. 2.5/5

Story 5: “Pale Rider” by Nancy Holder
In Nancy Holder’s contribution, another from an author whose previous work I hated, we have yet another world that makes absolutely no sense to me. Apparently, there was a collapse, consisting of explosions, earthquakes, and riots. In 8 years, the world fell apart entirely. I was already skeptical, but we’ve also got a hot German guy with powers and it turns into this weird paranormal thing. I wouldn’t really call this a dystopia, and the writing is nauseating. 1/5

Story 6: “Corpse Eaters” by Melissa Marr
My main reaction to this story was “CHICKA-WHUT?” There’s not nearly enough world building to sell this story of some Lizard King god arising from the deeps with his lizard followers. Then apparently some humans start worshiping him and they all eat people. The main characters, Harmony and Chris fight them. Yes, it’s dark and creepy, but would probably work better either with a lot more background or as some sort of superhero comic. Also, the relationship between Chris and Harmony is creepy, since he previously had a relationship with her sister Chastity. In fact, he and Harmony first hook up when he thinks she is Chastity, during a drunken haze after Chastity’s death. I didn’t like the characters or the world, unfortunately. This was a major letdown, since I generally enjoy Marr’s work. 2/5

Story 7: “Burn 3” by Kami Garcia
Well, another author has succeeded in surprising me and exceeding my expectations. Kami Garcia chooses a simple premise for her story: global warming leading to post-apocalyptic conditions. A society, within a dome, is managing to limp along, but, even beneath the glass, people suffer from burns. Garcia doesn’t shoe-horn in any romance, or try to make the story overly hopeful. “Burn 3” follows classic lines, and does so without being melodramatic or boring. 4/5

Story 8:”Love Is a Choice” by Beth Revis
Yet again, Beth Revis’ short story contribution is set in the AtU universe. Unlike some of the others, I actually really liked this one, which gives background on Orion. In this story, you can really see why he ended up losing his mind, and how he became so ruthless and crazy, despite his good intentions. 4/5

Story 9: “Miasma” by Carrie Ryan
Yet again, romance dominates any sort of actual world building. Carrie Ryan has some cool ideas. Something has happened to the environment, and now there’s a deadly plague and creepy beaked doctors. Conceivably, this could be awesome, but it’s all just there as a backdrop to an instalove sort of relationship. Pass. 2/5

Though most of these stories fell flat for me, the collection is very readable, with even the worst stories not boring me. This made it a nice easy read. I wouldn’t recommend it to those who look primarily for world building, but, otherwise, it’s a quick, fun read, and, unless you’re OCD about such things, you can just skip the stories you don’t like.

I have two copies of the ARC to offer up to my readers. Fill out the Rafflecopter to enter. US/CAN only.
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27 responses to “Review + Giveaway: Shards & Ashes”

  1. Generally agreed with most of what you wrote, though I enjoyed the romance in Carrie Ryan’s story (mostly really loved the smells of that world!) and the Marr story. Chris and Harmony’s relationship was strange, considering Chastity, but I think I mostly shrugged that part off. Funny that you mentioned Darya & divergence though; didn’t think of that when I read it :P. Glad you gave VR a second chance and enjoyed the story!

    • Christina says:

      Yeah, I did think the smells in Ryan’s were interesting. Though I don’t care for her characters at all, thus far, she can write.

      Seriously, I burst out laughing in public when she turned out to have all of the sounds.

  2. Nori says:

    I want to read this so bad! That sucks that Margaret Stohl’s story wasn’t good because she has a new book coming out that sounds super interesting. But, Kami Garcia’s was one of your favorites? Maybe her half of Beautiful Creatures was better? Beth Revis’ story sounds awesome. I kind of love reading short stories that take place in familiar universes. I also think Roth’s story sounds super interesting. I like the way you divided your reviews up by story too!

    • Christina says:

      Yeah, I removed that book from my to-read list, because her writing style makes me want to rip my hair out, and I like having hair. Maybe. I think they wrote that together rather than trading halves. Kami had more complete sentences, and no romance whatsoever.

      Thanks! I enjoyed dividing by story, but when they have like 30 of them, it gets a bit lengthy even for me.

  3. I’m pretty much dying to read this anthology. I’m a huge fan of them in general – perfect little bites of story for short length reading – and the line up here is fabulous!

  4. Kat Balcombe says:

    Ooo I haven’t read an anthology in a long time, but this one sounds interesting.

    Burn 3 sounds good, I find the whole dome thing fascinating, I just need to find a book in which it’s bloody good!

    Oh Carrie Ryan, you have such good ideas and then go off on a tangent!

  5. erin says:

    Thanks for the great review! I love anthologies and this one has some of my favorite authors. Thanks for sharing!

  6. I am so OCD about things that I could not skip a story I didn’t like. Also — there’s quite a few authors I like in this anthology (like guilty pleasure authors) so yay, I am actually looking forward to reading it someday.

    ALSO. This makes me want to go home and read another of the short stories in Zombies Vs. Unicorns, after all, I have been reading that book for like 2 years according to goodreads. Oh wait, I went to check, I’ve been reading it since September 2010 hahaha.

    • Christina says:

      OMG, April, I am totes the same about that. It’s why I don’t read many anthologies, because I’ll get stuck in one, and OF COURSE, it will be the longest one and I just end up DNFing the whole book because I won’t mark it read if I don’t finish that one story. I don’t mind when other people do that, but I CAN’T.

      YESSS, you should. That is one of the best anthologies ever.

  7. Kayla Beck says:

    I haven’t read a short story collection since Lies, Knives and Girls in Red Dresses, so I’ve been looking forward to this one. That was just one author (if memory serves correctly), so I’m interested in seeing what a smattering of YA ladies can pull off.

    Also, I hate the cover. That is all.

  8. I have only read Roth and Ryan of these authors, so this would be a great chance to get a feel for the other authors styles. Short story collections are an easy way for me to sample an author before committing to a book I’m not sure I will like.

  9. Mariya says:

    I really like short story compilations and I love anything dystopian/post-apocalyptic, so I think this looks like a really good book, even though it’s gotten many mixed reviews on Goodreads.

    “Hearken” sounds like it’s a kick-ass story, but then I’m a huge fan of Veronica Roth anyways. “Burn 3” also looks good; anything about global warming is interesting.

    I see there’s a story by Margaret Stohl. I’ve been interesting in this author (haven’t had a chance to read Beautiful Creatures yet even though I feel compelled to do so because of the movie that’s coming out) but the description of her story sounds pretty lame.

    • Christina says:

      I think you’ll like Hearken and Burn 3. They were good reads.

      As for Margaret Stohl’s, well, it depends on your tolerance for her writing, which was really my biggest issue.

  10. wow! i didn’t realize that these were a collection of short stories until i read your review. now i’m even more intrigued!

  11. bahahaha any review with “CHICKA-WHUT?” in it is a great review in my book. Remember that for the future. The Stohl one sounds terrible and that makes me so sad. I haven’t read anything by her but I did go to a signing of hers and she was freaking hilarious and just full of awesome so I was hoping that awesomeness found its way into her writing. Too bad Armstrong didn’t venture out a bit. It seems like most of her stuff is about shapeshifters lately. I am definitely curious about the Roth one it sounds pretty good. Great review!


    • Christina says:

      Hahahah, you are welcome. Sometimes I just feel the need to be really crazy, and, honestly, how else do you respond to lizard-gods? I have no idea.

      Yeah, I don’t like when authors do one thing and stay there. Armstrong writes fun books, and I want to see her branch out.

  12. I love the cover and their are a lot of big authors in this book, sadly not all authors I love are capable of pulling off a short story. I have enjoyed quite a few of these authors works, and honestly I think I liked Divergent more then you did. I like Armstrong’s adult and Ya books. Great review and thanks for the chance to win it

    • Christina says:

      I’m sure you did like Divergent more. Most people did. Haha. If you get to read this, I’ll be curious to see your thoughts on it. I don’t think I’ve seen any other reviews for it.

  13. Natalie R says:

    OMG! A book with 9 dystopian YA stories?!?! I NEED THIS. I love dystopian novels, and this book seems just made for me! I really like the cover of this book – I know, I know, “Never judge a book by its cover” – but its really intriguing! I really hope I enjoy these short stories 🙂

  14. Vivien says:

    What sucks about these is there’s always a short story or two that I HAVE to read and then I don’t like the others. So yea, I’ll get this but I’ll probably feel the same.

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